Appreciation of photographic art

Every six months or so I am invited to a local camera club to talk about photography.  Subjects have been wide and varied from portraiture through to lighting, landscape, use of cameras and recently street photography.

The main premise of my talk was that photography comes in many guises and the most rewarding is when you take something that appeals to you.  Not to judges or competitions or other photographers or camera club members.

Sometimes I hear that an enthusiast photographer has become despondent because a club member or judge has harshly criticised his or her work.  I usually say that beauty and art is in the sole eye of the individual and as we are all individuals our tastes will vary wildly.  One mans meat anothers poison etc.

During this particular talk I presented a selection of mine and others street photography explaining that as long as there was something in that picture that I liked I didn’t care about anyones opinion.  This resonated with the audience and at the end of the session I was rebooked on the spot for another session.

This time I presented the work of Iain McKell a social documentary photographer originally from Weymouth.  The image that first brought him to my attention was one of a rather attractive girl looking intently into the camera whilst holding her hand over her mouth.  This was one of many from a project which became a book called The New Gypsies.  His next book entitled Beautiful Britain charts thirty years of quirkiness and although interesting did not captivate me as much as his other book.

The prime reason for showing and discussing these works was primarily because they defy all that camera clubs and competitions ram at members on a weekly basis:  Composition, Depth of field, Focus, Exposure, what camera was used (usually whether Nikon or Canon) and finally whether the subject interested the judge.

On looking at Iain McKell’s work you get the impression that the most important aspects are relationship with subject and story are far more important than ‘conventional’ rules.

The end result was a lively debate where some of the old guard felt that Iain Mckell was not a photographer at all and where some of the newer more arty members felt liberated.  Either way, 2nd hand copies of The New Gypsies are for sale for anything from £350 to £3500 and his current book, Beautiful Britain sells at £25.

If you see The New Gypsies in a charity shop invest and maybe invest in Beautiful Britain too.

The second half of the evening consisted of constructive reviews and editing of some ‘brave’ members images.  It was interesting to see how much more reserved the old guard were in their criticism.


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